It’s easy to forgive puppies for their destructive behavior. But that doesn’t mean you have to like the havoc they wreak. If your puppy is chewing all your worldly possessions into shreds, there are constructive ways to deal with the problem. Read on to find out how to stop puppies from chewing everything in sight.
Why Puppies Chew
It may seem like a silly question: why do puppies chew? The answer may seem obvious: because that’s what puppies do. Even an adult dog needs to chew. They gnaw on things to clean their teeth and exercise their jaws.1
Puppies also use chewing as a way to explore their environment. Just as human babies reach out and grab things to get a sense of them, so do puppies. They just do it with their mouths, and to much more destructive effect.2,3
But if your puppy seems to be chewing on things excessively — and if they always seem to be chewing on something they shouldn’t — there may be more to their chewing than exercise and oral hygiene.
Reasons puppies may chew include:
- Separation anxiety
- Boredom and excessive energy4
It may take some investigating to figure out why your puppy creates so much devastation with their mastication. But once you do figure it out, you’ll know better how to approach the problem of your dog’s destructive chewing.
Teething: When A Pain In The Gums Becomes A Pain In The Neck
Just like human babies, puppies have baby teeth (known as deciduous teeth). But unlike those of human babies, puppy teeth come in fast. Dogs’ deciduous teeth come in when they’re between three and six weeks old.5
By the time a puppy is six months old, their adult teeth will have come in: 42 in total. They go through a few months of teething, which can be as uncomfortable for puppies as it is for human babies. And how do puppies alleviate the pain of their sore gums? By chewing things, of course. The good news is that once your puppy finishes teething, there’s a good chance their unfortunate chewing habits will go away on their own. The bad news? That might not happen until they’re 18 months old.6
That could be a year’s worth of ruined clothes, shoes, and pillows.
Separation Anxiety: When Absence Makes The Heart Go Bonkers
Maybe you’ve given your dog all the chew toys they could possibly handle to help them through teething. And yet you still come home after a long day to find your throw pillows torn to shreds. What’s going on?
The problem may be more psychological than biological. Your puppy may be suffering from separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is more than the whimpering you might hear when you first leave the house. It’s a form of extreme stress that your dog may feel when left alone. It may just be that your puppy is unused to being alone. Or it may be that your poor pup has a clingier personality than most.7 Whatever the reason, separation anxiety isn’t fun for you or your dog.
In addition to destructive chewing, look for other signs of distress in your pup’s behavior. If they seem to be howling, barking, or digging a lot, it may be that your dog is suffering from anxiety.8
Boredom: When Your Pup Decides To Make Their Own Excitement
You may be keeping your pup well fed and clean. You may give them a lot of love in the form of petting and cuddling. But your pup needs to be entertained, too. They have a lot of energy they need to get out of their system.
A bored puppy may be suffering from a lack of stimulation.9 If that’s the case, you may observe your restless pup engaging in “sensation-seeking” behaviors. And since dogs explore their environments with their mouths, chewing on whatever’s around is a great way to discover new sensations.10,11
Excess Energy: From Playful to Painful
Even if you feel like you’re doing your best to keep your dog entertained, remember that some dog breeds have higher energy levels than others. And dogs that are raised in homes with children may often be more excitable than those who aren’t.12
It could be that you have a perfectly healthy dog that just has naturally higher energy. If that’s the case, you may have to put in a little more work to keep your pup stimulated.
What You Can Do About Your Puppy’s Destructive Chewing
It’s important to understand why your pup may be a one-dog wrecking crew. But you also have to know what to do about your dog’s chewing. If your pup likes to make a meal out of all the wrong things, there are several things you can try.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Veterinarians will tell you that a tired dog is a happy dog. When you take your pup out for a walk, don’t bring them inside right after they do their business. Let them sniff around and explore.13
Dogs should get at least 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. Take your pup for a longer walk. Play fetch. Let them run around in an enclosed outdoor area.
It’s not just about getting your dog to burn off excess energy. Aerobic exercise may also help your dog’s brain to produce more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that may help relax a dog that’s suffering from anxiety.14
Chew On This: Dog Toys For Your Pup
You should also be sure to provide appropriate chew toys for your puppy. A chew toy made of hard rubber or hard nylon is great for a teething puppy. It’s even better if you can fill the toy with water and freeze it: the cooling sensation may help soothe your dog’s sore gums.15
If you really want to keep your dog occupied, check with your veterinarian to see if it’s safe for them to eat peanut butter. Filling a chew toy with peanut butter will not only motivate your dog to keep chewing, but provide mental stimulation that may help stave off boredom.16
Avoid letting your pup chew on objects like rocks and large branches, which can damage your dog’s teeth.17,18,19 And never give your dog cooked bones from your leftovers; they can splinter and cause serious injury to the teeth, throat, and digestive tract.20
Teach Your Pup What They Can And Can’t Chew
Leave out between three and five dog toys at a time. Too many toys at one time may make it difficult for your pup to distinguish between what is and is not a chew toy.21
Also, make sure not to give your pup unwanted household items to chew on. For example, they won’t be able to tell the difference between a beaten-up old shoe and a brand new one. If they think one shoe is a toy, they’ll think every shoe is a toy.22
Keep It Positive
Even if your puppy mangles your favorite t-shirt, remember to keep a cool head about it. Punishment may only teach your dog that their inappropriate chewing is getting them attention — and in the case of a bored or anxious pet, that attention may be what they crave.23
Instead, try to use positive reinforcement. It is nearly always the best way to deal with behavioral issues in dogs.24 Praise your pup when they do the right thing; maybe even reward them with a treat.
You can even use positive reinforcement to address a dog’s separation anxiety. Try giving them a treat whenever you’re about to leave. Make sure they have a comfortable area that’s all their own, like a soft dog bed. You can even hide little treats around the house for them to find when you’re gone.25
Patience Is Key
A puppy chewing through all your worldly possessions can be frustrating, but fixing the problem requires a gentle, patient approach. Through trial and error — and a consultation with your vet, of course — you’ll better understand the reasons for your dog chewing. And with that understanding, you’ll be able to create a happier home for both you and your puppy.
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